More than 10,000 people have refused to be tested for coronavirus as the Australian health authorities warned that conspiracy theories are hampering efforts to contain a steep spike in cases around the city of Melbourne.
Health officials in the southern state of Victoria pleaded with the public to get themselves tested for Covid-19 and to ignore disinformation propagating online.
Having dodged the worst ravages of the pandemic and eased most lockdown restrictions, Australia is now struggling to contain several clusters around its second-biggest city that are delivering dozens of new cases each day.
"Disappointingly however we have had more than 10,000 people who have refused to be tested," health minister Jenny Mikakos said.
Officials were still analysing the reasons given for refusing testing, but Mikakos said: "The report that I have received is that some people believe that coronavirus is a conspiracy, or that it won't impact on them."
Describing the trend as "concerning" she said, "What I want to stress here is that coronavirus is a very contagious virus. It can go through your family very quickly."
She said a "testing blitz" was vital to trace, track and ultimately check the spread of the disease.
In the last week, 160,000 tests have been carried out in the area and almost 100,000 doors have been knocked on, she said. Around 300,000 people are back under a strict lockdown after the surge of cases.
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Throughout the pandemic, falsehoods have spread quickly online across the world. The World Health Organisation has warned of a parallel "infodemic" alongside the health crisis.
One prominent Australian conspiracy theorist, with 250,000 followers on Instagram alone, has made false claims about "contaminated test kits", while denying the pandemic exists.
Australia has recorded more than 8,000 coronavirus cases and just over 100 deaths in a population of 25 million.
The last two weeks have seen the emergence of about 700 of those cases, after a long lull.